Tuesday, 20 May 2014

SE China: Emeifang NNR.

Emeifang National Nature Reserve is a huge, isolated mountain in Jiangsu province. It has a wide range of forest habitats, which start at the base of the mountain & change with altitude. The very top of the mountain are dwarf shrubs & patches of grassland.
Emeifang NNR.
 Views from close to our accommodation
 on the mountain.
The newly constructed temple, near the summit.
Yes, one of these fat guys is me!

We were to spend the next three nights here based at the rather rustic Taining Forest Hotel, near the mountain summit. Now, it is not what I would call a hotel, but it was in a stunning setting, a pity it took us the best part of three days to see the scenery, because it was of course, raining! Emeifang is home to some of the most desirable and rare gamebirds in China & I was very excited to be here.
On the lower slopes of the mountain,
near the site for Elliot's Pheasant.
 It is dawn on the 11th May & we are all sat in the minibus at the side of the road, at the base of this superb mountain. We are looking for one of the rarest & seldom seen pheasants in China - the incredibly rare & enigmatic, Elliot's Pheasant. The minutes tick by slowly & nothing stirs. We decide to move to another location & bingo! A pair are in the field next to the forest. We climb out of the bus & are treated to prolonged if distant views of this amazing bird. The light is not too good, but I fire away anyway!
 Elliot's Pheasant.
 Until recently, few westerners had seen this species.
 Not completely sharp, but taken at 100x
 in poor light!
 This was my top bird of the trip!
We have breakfast by the side of the road & a pair of Chinese Sparrowhawks entertain us. Rarely has a Chinese breakfast tasted so good!
Chinese Sparrowhawk, fuzzy, taken at 100x
 without a tripod.

Collared Finchbill is a common species
in the more cultivated areas.
The other reason for visiting Emeifang, is of course for Cabot's Tragopan. it is found higher up the mountain & of course, the forest habitat is in swirling cloud & it is raining again!
 Fast paced clouds, bringing more rain!

Yep! They have got it!
My very first, Cabot's Tragopan - & it is a female!
Taken with my Lumix camera at 4x magnification.
Another female, sat high in a tree by the roadside.
By now, I was running out of usable cameras!
The first two days on the mountain were hampered by virtually constant rain & loud cloud. It didn't stop us seeing the birds, but it made it that much harder & virtually impossible to photograph them.
Best birds were: 34 Mandarin Duck; 2 Chinese Sparrowhawk; 2 Chinese Bamboo Partridge; at least 10+ Cabot's Tragopan, including some stunning males; 2 Koklass Pheasant; up to 12 Silver Pheasant in a day; 2 Elliot's Pheasant; Speckled Piculet; Black-winged Cuckooshrike; 2 Chestnut Bulbul; Kloss's Leaf Warbler; Sulphur-breasted Warbler; White-spectacled Warbler; Chestnut-crowned Warbler; Slaty-backed Forktail; Small Niltava; 3 Buffy Laughingthrush; Chinese Hwamei; 4 Moustached Laughingthrush; 3 Huet's Fulvetta & 5 Red-billed blue Magpie.

 On a good day!

Frank taping Brown Bush Warbler.
Which we all obtained good views of,
 but I didn't get any photos!

On the third day, the rain stopped & we finally saw the mountain top. And what a view it was! We pushed for the top & saw a couple of great species namely, Brown Bush Warbler & Buff-throated Warbler.
Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher.

On our way off the mountain we birded the various forest habitats again & had great views of a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher which Pete Morris of Birdquest had found the day before. It is always nice to see Pete again, as he is an interesting fellow. This is a rarely seen species & was a world tick for nearly all.
 One of the many very tidy Chinese towns.
Red-rumped Swallow - looking very different
 from the more western races.

We had a brief stop in a nearby town & saw Red-rumped Swallows breeding on the buildings. Then it was more driving as we went towards Wuyan in torrential rain!

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